Wendell Lira was an unknown Brazilian footballer until January 11, when he won the FIFA Puskas Award for the best goal of 2015. He plays for a second division team and is looking to improve his standing. During his acceptance speech, he explained his outlook on life: “When Goliath appeared, everybody said: he is too strong, too big, you will never beat him. When David saw Goliath, he said: He’s too big, I can’t miss.” This approach to the challenge is a very good description of what the Fourth Industrial Revolution represents to Latin America – will Latin Americans see it as an insurmountable challenge or a massive opportunity not to be lost? 

For a region living with entrenched structural problems affecting everything from education to infrastructure and international competitiveness to public administration, the Fourth Industrial Revolution looks frightening. The Third Industrial Revolution (electronics, IT, automated production) has yet to reach several parts of Latin America, which itself is a sign of the massive challenges facing the region. 

At the same time, this Latin American patchwork of progress also has several centers of excellence for innovation. Agricultural mechanization and research has turned many countries into food production leaders. Major economic centers are also at the forefront of digital technologies used to handle data and information. With the help of universities and scientific research centers, Latin America has increased its knowledge of biotechnology and the ecological biomass reserves from the Grande River to Patagonia. 

There are also many efficient companies in the private sector adding Big Data, new materials and 3D printing technologies to their production methods. Latin American people have huge creative skills and love new products. Many reputable universities are preparing their students to enter a new job market based on a fusion of technologies to deliver products in a more efficient way, make people’s lives easier, improve access to education, make their countries’ citizens safer, offer faster logistics and transportation services and improve people’s ability to interact, express their opinions and push their governments for better results. 

There is a massive opportunity for a Fourth Industrial Revolution in Latin America to bring change for a better future. However, it will not be an easy process; it is a change that will cost jobs in several industries. Many people will have difficulty adapting and high quality education will be critical. Latin America’s economic, social and structural difficulties may slow down the process. But, the region needs to adapt. Other countries and regions like Germany, the U.S. and Japan are already investing billions to further push development and technology, and emerging economies are catching up. 

In order for a Fourth Industrial Revolution to be successful in Latin America, governments, companies, workers, universities and society will have to work together. It is important to remember that Latin Americans have always pursued this type of improvement during periods of economic and political distress. When governments have made little attempt to modernize their countries, their citizens and the private sector have driven modernization and made a difference. 

In Brazil, corrupt politicians, leaders and businesspersons are now in jail for corruption. Bringing down the region’s corrupt and populist governments could be an opportunity to reinvest stolen funds currently hidden in foreign bank accounts and target appropriate areas for the development of a new era. 

Latin America will obviously see the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a big opportunity. As David said about Goliath, it’s too big to miss.

Paulo-Andreoli_505x469By Paulo Andreoli, Chairman MSLGROUP Latin America and President MSLGROUP Andreoli